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They Gave At The Office: 2006's $51 Billion Donors

If giving is better than receiving, then 2006 topped the charts for goodness. So says Chronicle of Philanthropy editor Stacy Palmer, naming the wealthy donors who made history last year.

Speaking on "Street Signs," Palmer noted that the "economy is doing well" -- particularly for the wealthiest Americans -- and that those who have been most blessed have felt the calling to better the world around them. The No. 1 entrant was Berkshire Hathaway chairman Warren Buffett, who forked over a staggering $44 billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (The two richest men on earth, and Melinda Gates, all play bridge together -- where they craft their massive philanthropic strategies.)

Even excluding Buffett's gift, however, 2006 was the biggest year ever for giving. Palmer told CNBC's Erin Burnett that donations totalled $7 billion -- 60% higher than 2005.

Other big givers include Bernard & BarbroOsher, who sold Golden West to Wachovia -- and gave $723 million to charities; billionaire scion David Rockefeller, with $252 million; and Treasury Secretary Henry "Hank" Paulson and billionaire New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Palmer also noted celebrity donors including media titan Oprah Winfrey and the estate of actor Jack Lord -- of TV's Hawaii Five-O fame -- whose entire fortune was bequeathed to local Hawaiian charities.

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  • Co-anchor of CNBC's "Street Signs," Amanda Drury is based at the network's global headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.